The White Sox only have each other to play for, and/or blame

Now that the White Sox’s departure from the pennant race is all but official, the season’s focus will naturally turn to individual pursuits and priorities, and whether those come into conflict with the fact that baseball remains a team sport regardless of the standings.

Miguel Cairo’s persona reflects the delicate balance. When he took over for Tony La Russa, the team remained in contention, which gave him enough gravity to shake things up with a get-in-or-get-out speech. Now that their hopes have evaporated, he’s reduced to a standard array of self-blame, cap-tipping and bemoaning standard-issue misfortune because the White Sox have yet to put him officially in charge. As long as he’s wearing the interim tag and the Sox offer no conclusive timetable for Tony La Russa’s return, he can’t afford to abuse the very moderate amount of power they gave him.

So that leaves the players, all of whom have different motivations. You have Gavin Sheets saying the right thing after the Sox were swept out of contention by Cleveland Thursday night, because he’s still under team control for quite a long while.

“Have to play for each other,” Sheets said of the team’s approach for the final 12 games. “Go out there with the same goal. Go out and try to win every game. Obviously we’ve put ourselves in a very, very tough spot. I don’t even know what the percentage is at this time, but more than anything we need to go out and play for each other.

“Play to get a win and regardless of where we’re at, we need to try to win every game.”

At the same time that Johnny Cueto was saying the more real thing, in response to a question about whether the team got its act together too late:

Cueto showed up as veteran rotation ballast with hopes that he could hold down a No. 4 or No. 5 job for a few months. Instead, he became the White Sox’s second-best starter. He wasn’t part of the original plans, and after doing as much as anybody in a White Sox uniform to keep the team’s hopes afloat from the day he arrived, he’s using the leeway his expiring contract affords to remain a tourist.

Cueto’s comments echoes those made by José Abreu, another impending free agent, in early August.

“The only thing that I can control is just trying everyday,” he said. “Try every day to do my best and bring the best to the organization. That’s one thing I can control. I don’t have control over other things than that. That’s what I try to bring everyday here.”

Elvis Andrus, who is also playing for his next contract and should have a few different possibilities, showed the risk of trying to speak for the team. I was struck by his confidence in Cleveland crumbling, because he just got here. It gave me 2016 vibes, where respected professional from other organizations arrived to the White Sox with no comprehension of the amount of self-sabotage they’re about to experience. I’m curious about his experience the rest of the way, and how Tim Anderson’s potential return cramps his style.

Just like the last months of 2016, it’s every man for himself from here on out, especially since Robin Ventura was just as much a placeholder as Cairo. The difference is that everybody could see the rebuild’s writing on the wall six years ago, whereas these Sox have to stick with the bulk of the remaining core for one reason (actual talent) or another (hefty financial obligations).

There’s no way to salvage anything from this season, and there’s nothing that can be said that helps. We can only look for the quotes that reflect actual hurt, and try to extrapolate about whether that reflects any meaningful changes to how the White Sox conduct themselves at every level. It’s only 13 days, but it’ll feel like 13 weeks, unless or until nothing changes, and it reverts to feeling like the day before.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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itaita

Since its this year’s Sox they’ll finish the year winning 10 of 12 or something and fall a game short of the playoffs just so all the games pissed away during the year become that more glaring.

upnorthsox

5-7 and finish 81-81. With a run differential of 0.

soxfan

Poetic, symmetric, analytic, perfect.

metasox

yes. sublime mediocrity

soxfan

Half the roster has nothing to be embarrassed about. The other half has some splaining to do.

Exceeded expectations: Cease, Cueto, Lopez, Andrus, Martin, Savala

Met expectations: Abreu, Hendricks, Graveman, Harrison, Lambert, Banks, Ruiz

Underperformed: Pollock, Garcia, Velasquez, Engel

Betrayed by injuries: Anderson, Lynn, Giolito, Jimenez, Kopech, Bummer

Betrayed by mismanagement: Vaughn, Sheets,

Faceplanted: Moncada, Grandal, Diekman

a-t

I think Moncada belongs at least in part in the betrayed by injuries section. He wasn’t healthy until like the ASB in part bc they kept playing him when he was less than 70% capaciyu

OldMMJ87

I agree, it took him something like 80 games to get his average above .200 and his OPS above .600, when he looked overmatched in 2018 he still managed to keep his average hovering around .220 with an OPS around .700. I think he was clearly compromised for a good chunk of this season but for some reason Tony kept running him and Grandal out there.

metasox

And is now finishing fairly strong with an .889 OPS in Sep

charlie

What none of you Moncada apologists ever seem to
look at is how he never comes through when we’re down.

soxfan

Yeah, there’s a Venn diagram of course. As upnorthsox points out, Giolito has underperformed but I put him in the injury category because it seems like some folks were thinking long Covid was an issue at least for a while and his reliance on his legs to make things happen. Anderson probably is closer to underperformed that met expectations even if his injury didn’t occur so he’s another that’s straddling a line. Grandal’s been on the IL. Garcia’s been mismanaged. Etc. etc.

In Moncada’s case specifically, even if we write off the pre-ASB struggles as injury related, he’s still only OPSing 669 in the second half. That’s not terrible – especially when he’s one of the few net positives on defense – but it’s far from acceptable considering he was one of the cornerstones of the rebuid.

But ymmv.

yinkadoubledare

And Grandal was coming off knee surgery and wasn’t really ready to start the season and it showed. Still think with a full offseason of recovery he’s going to look better next year. Same as Lance Lynn, who spent a month-plus mostly looking like crap before he got his legs fully in shape after surgery and started looking more like himself.

I agree with Giolito if we count COVID as an injury, I will forever think “long COVID” has tanked him this year.

upnorthsox

I don’t know what Grandal has left but I suspect not much.

Lynn has to take responsibility for his own fitness. I’ve said it before and will say again, with his age and knees he needs to lose 20 lbs minimum if not 40 lbs.

I can’t say how Covid effected Giolito but he was at 97 in ’20, 94 last year, and mostly 92 this year. He needs to regain speed or come up with another pitch or he’ll be toast sooner rather than later.

charlie

Stop it.

Trooper Galactus

Since they’re not in here, I’d put Robert in a combination of injured/mismanaged (in that they mismanaged his injury) and add Kelly to the faceplanted section.

soxfan

Ach – I knew I missed Kelly, but Robert is more egregious. Thanks for your submission.

upnorthsox

Giolito is an underperformed. He should finish with 30 starts.

ChiSoxND12

Giolito most certainly underperformed IMO. And Leury more than just underperformed, overexposure be damned he has like a 40 OPS+

upnorthsox

Garcia – Underperformed, betrayed by mismanagement, and faceplanted.

He truly was versatile 🙂

JimMargalusBiggestFan

Not sure what yours were, but Diekman certainly met my expectations. The night the trade happened I said that he seemed perfect for the role of having a meltdown when needed the most.

Great job, Rick!

BenwithVen

I was hoping that Kids in the Hall sketch would be in the hyperlink and was not disappointed.

PauliePaulie

Incredibly astute read from Jim to equate comments from ’23 to ’16.
Really makes me wonder what the hell is going on in that clubhouse that so little would change after 6 seasons and 3 managers.

Last edited 9 days ago by PauliePaulie
upnorthsox

Ken Williams and Rick Hahn

upnorthsox

And its not the last 6 seasons but since 2006.

chipporter

Let the bonspiel begin.

OldMMJ87

This is as about as dark a period of time to be a Sox fan as I can recall in quite sometime and it is amazing how much the long-term outlook for this organization has shifted in the span of a year. It’s almost amazing how much damage this front office has inflicted upon itself.

upnorthsox

What do they say, it’s darkest before the dawn.

I’m actually excited as hell, a lot of things that needed to be brought out in the open have been laid bare and now things can move forward. This could all go horribly wrong by December but right now I see hope not despair.

Trooper Galactus

There is no hope until MFers start getting fired.

upnorthsox

That what can all go horribly wrong.

Trooper Galactus

Hate to break it to you, but none of these clowns is gonna get walking papers. The roles might change, but it’s gonna be the same collection of losers running the show.

peanutsNcrackerjack

I’m not sure about that. Getting pantsed by a team whose payroll is $100 million lower has got be driving JR nuts. It might take the shape of a resignation, but I don’t believe Hahn is here next year. Who knows about Kenny Williams, in fact who know what Kenny Williams actually does.

upnorthsox

Speaking of who’s who and what do they do, who the hell is Howard Pizer?

https://www.mlb.com/whitesox/team/front-office

I have never heard of him.

That FO listing really says it all, 12 VPs for 50-60 employees. More people care about the title on the door than the product on the field.

Trooper Galactus

Reminds me of a line from Good Morning Vietnam:

“Sir, seeing as the VP is such a VIP, shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT? Because if it leaks to the VC he could end up an MIA and we’d all be put on KP.”

asinwreck

Howard Pizer was very involved in the push for New Comiskey (you know, when Jerry Reinsdorf got the State of Illinois to displace 1,000 Chicagoans for a new stadium that somehow never translated into acting like a major-market team).

It is remarkable how many members of the board were there in the 1980s.

Jerry isn’t going to fire his loyal stooges, especially with the end of his ownership so near.

sinkerball

My fears is that management uses the injuries, shortened spring training, and maybe COVID as reasons to not trade some of the higher paid/poor performers. They know how to string us along.

itaita

I still think 14-16 was worse. This team has been a huge disappointment but they at least had the decency to lose like a normal underachieving team. The most oddball thing was TLR. But it seemed like every other week with the mid teens Sox the team had some crazy blow up that made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Not to mention the wasting of Sale/Quintana as possibly one of the better 1-2 duo’s in the AL who were not getting paid yet unlike guys on this team, prime Abreu and those underrated Eaton seasons before his body fell apart. You can also argue it ended up damaging this current Sox team since back then the front office was at least making trades and trying to fill the holes in the lineup. Sure they were not spending 300 million dollars or anything but you could never get mad at a lack of trying, all those trades and such just falling flat and the team overall dying with a loud flop on the pavement might’ve made Jerry wary of letting Rick do that again.

ChiSoxND12

The Sox are 8 games back of a team whose lineup includes Will Brennan, Austin Hedges and Myles Straw in succession

Greg Nix

Hmm, I’ve watched all of Succession and don’t remember seeing Myles Straw anywhere.

chipporter

Walter Brennan was great in that one.

dwjm3

Jerry is watching his satellite blow up just like Roman

Dude 7777

Great comments but…Reinsdorf got his wish–a team that competes for second place without pricey free agents to diminish profits. Anderson looked lost before his season ending injury. Engel had his Bartman moment without Bartman, losing a game by misplaying a lazy foul ball. Giolito was in a half-season long rut where he spotted opponents 5 runs in the early innings. Grandal missed his calling. Losing his batter’s eye, he should have racked up three times the number of walks. And what about that negative Sox W-L record at home? Clean house, let’s build a winner.

sinkerball

What’s interesting about the comments by Cueto and Abreu is that they don’t seem to imply an expectation that their teammates will respond; more that they need to be able to look themselves in the mirror. I am hoping that the veterans call out the players they feel are not busting it every night. They should know who is really hurting.

StockroomSnail

Ennui ball is here to stay. I hate this team.

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